Damn Reincarnation - Chapter 127
That night, an unexpected guest arrived at the Red Tower of Magic.
“Because if I had sent word of my intention to visit, I’m sure that you would have declined it,” confessed the Black Tower Master, Balzac Ludbeth.
Taking off his black fedora, Balzac smiled at his unwelcoming hosts.
Eugene and Lovellian weren’t returning the smile. The corners of Lovellian’s lips were downturned and Eugene had an even more blatant expression of dissatisfaction on his face.
Although their reaction to his presence was rather harsh, Balzac was used to such treatment.
“Would it be alright if I come in? Or else, would you like to come out for a walk with me?” Balzac politely asked.
Lovellian reluctantly responded to his question. “…You’re not here to find me, are you?”
“Haha, please don’t feel too disappointed,” Balzac chuckled. “If the Red Tower Master is fine with me, I’ll be happy to come and accompany you at any time.”
Even though Balzac said these words with a smile, Lovellian’s expression stiffened drastically. Just like Eugene, Lovellian also didn’t have much tolerance for black wizards. Even if he didn’t consider all black wizards and demonfolk to be absolutely evil, Lovellian definitely didn’t believe that he could ever become friends with them.
“Is there any way for us to refuse you?” Eugene asked.
“If you reject me today, I’ll just come back tomorrow,” Balzac threatened.
“But I intend to return to the main estate tomorrow.”
“In that case, it seems that we only have time for this today. By any chance, are you free right now? If not, dawn also works for me.”
This meant that Balzac was determined to take up some of his time no matter what. Eugene coughed and glanced at Lovellian.
“…Since it’s getting dark, if you absolutely need to have a conversation, then let’s head inside,” Lovellian conceded.
The Red Tower of Magic was Lovellian’s territory. As long as they stayed inside the tower, it was possible for him to be able to intervene no matter what type of situation might occur. It was unlikely that the Black Tower Master would do anything too absurd, but Lovellian just couldn’t trust this mysterious black wizard.
“…Please, come in.” Eugene also felt reluctant to invite Balzac in.
However, he was also curious about what kind of matter could make a black wizard like Balzac come visit in person. Especially since Balzac was a black wizard personally contracted to the Demon King of Incarceration. Perhaps he was here to bring a message from the Demon King of Incarceration himself?
“In all my years, to think that there would come a day when I would be able to enter the Red Tower of Magic,” Balzac marveled, appearing to be in a good mood. As he looked around Eugene’s spacious quarters, he continued speaking. “As Sir Eugene may already be aware, the Red Tower Master doesn’t like me all that much.”
Eugene defended his master. “But he has reason not to, doesn’t he?”
Balzac nodded. “Yes, that’s why I don’t feel upset by it. The Red Tower Master’s hatred is a hatred directed at all black wizards. That’s a burden that all who are black wizards must share.”
Eugene was also aware of the reason why Lovellian hated black wizards.
Lovellian had lost his family to a black wizard’s human experiments. He had seen his own mother, father, and younger sister being turned into a writhing chimera right in front of his very eyes. If it wasn’t for the wizard who had shown up to hunt down the black wizard in his own dungeon, Lovellian would have been turned into another chimera as well.
Eugene asked him, “Don’t you find that the very existence of black wizards itself is considered wrong?”
“Many people commit sins,” Balzac answered as he sat down in a chair. “But no matter how many people there are who commit sins, it cannot be said that the existence of humanity as a whole is wrong.”
“Are you really trying to say… that while there exist black wizards who commit sins, there are also good black wizards as well?” Eugene said these words with disgust. “But in my eyes, the black wizard’s very existence is a sin.”
Balzac just laughed. “Haha… I didn’t mean to start such a debate by saying that.”
No matter how you looked at it, Eugene’s words were rude. However, Balzac did not express any displeasure over this. Instead, his eyes shone as if he was having fun while he stared at Eugene.
“The goal that we are pursuing is different… is what I’d like to say. But as Sir Eugene may already know, it isn’t just black wizards who conduct human experiments. Countless wizards throughout history have committed terrible crimes and broken all sorts of taboos in order to try and gain esoteric enlightenment through those attempts,” Balzac argued.
“However, they never signed a contract with a Demon King,” Eugene pointed out.
Balzac suddenly expressed a startling opinion. “In the present age, Demon Kings aren’t much different from gods.”
Eugene instinctively felt offended by these words.
Balzac continued. “Well, this is clearly blasphemous, so I won’t be able to defend myself even if I do get rebuked for this, but… in my opinion, the Demon Kings are actually better than the gods.”
“How so?” Eugene demanded.
Balzac began his argument. “All gods have to start by proving their existence. However, we already know the Demon Kings exist. Not in the vague ‘heavens’, but on this very land, they can easily be found in Helmuth.”
Although it was offensive, Eugene couldn’t deny such words.
“Of course the gods can bestow miracles, but… rather than their unreliable miracles, isn’t it much better to have a Demon King who reigns over you personally and can be seen at any time? Also, Demon Kings are reasonable. Rather than things like belief and faith, a contract made using the soul as collateral is more reliable and worthwhile,” Balzac argued.
“Worthwhile…,” Eugene skeptically repeated.
“To put it simply, black wizards are just pragmatists who seek extreme efficiency” Balzac summed up. “As Sir Eugene may know, magic is a harsh, capricious, and unreasonable discipline. No matter how hard you try or how much you yearn for it, if you don’t have the talent, then you can’t become a wizard.”
At these words, Eugene recalled Eward.
“For such people, contracts with demonfolk are bound to feel very attractive. By selling their soul, they can get the magic that they so desire… the only cost is one that they themselves must pay. It doesn’t bring any harm to others,” Balzac insisted. “It’s only when they can’t be satisfied with that, that they might commit ‘sins’.”
“What about the black wizards who do commit a lot of sins, are you trying to say that it’s also because they’re pragmatists?” Eugene challenged sarcastically.
“If there is a clear profit to be made by violating human morality, then it is possible that they might cross that line in order to pursue the truth. But that’s true of most wizards though,” Balzac countered.
As Balzac had once said a long time ago, ‘People like wizards can easily sacrifice something like morals for the sake of satisfying their own curiosity and desire. Or, to put it in simple terms, there are many times more aberrant “wizards” than there are aberrant “black wizards.”’
Changing the subject, Eugene asked, “Did Sir Balzac also sign a contract with the Demon King for practical benefits?”
“Hmm…” Balzac hummed thoughtfully, a thin smile appearing on his lips as he tilted his head consideringly. “Have you heard a lot about me?”
“I’ve heard that you were once fellow students with the Blue Tower Master,” Eugene revealed.
“It’s not like we were under the same master, but…yes, I too was once a member of the Blue Tower of Magic,” Balzac confirmed.
“According to the Blue Tower Master, when you were still a member of the Blue Tower of Magic, your skills were said to be quite impressive,” Eugene mentioned.
“Haha… while it might look like I’m gilding my own face, yes, that is the truth. When I was still in the Blue Tower of Magic, I performed much better than the current Blue Tower Master… than Hiridus. If I had just spent a few more years there, I would have become the Blue Tower Master instead of Hiridus.” Balzac fell silent for a few moments, tapping on the armrest of his chair, before continuing, “…However… it’s just that rather than settle for what was going to fall in my hands naturally, what I wanted was more than that.”
“More than that?” Eugene repeated curiously.
“I am not the Wise Sienna,” Balzac suddenly brought up her name from out of nowhere.
Eugene frowned, not understanding what he meant by that.
Balzac chucked and continued speaking. “The Wise Sienna is loved by magic. Lady Sienna was a wizard who could even pose a threat to a Demon King, but ever since Lady Sienna’s birth, no other such wizard has ever appeared. That goes for me as well. Ah… of course, I don’t mean that I wish I could pose a threat to the Demon Kings, it’s just that I desire to become a wizard as great as she is.”
Eugene listened silently.
“It’s not just me either. Amelia Merwin and Edmond Codreth, too. The three of us could have become ‘Archwizards’ even without having signed a contract with the Demon King of Incarceration. It’s just that we wanted more. Any wizard who believes himself to be a genius will hold a desire to see the very ‘end’ of all magic. However, such an end is far out of the reach of even an Archwizard,” Balzac said regretfully.
“…An end you say…,” Eugene smirked and shook his head. “So what, are you saying that after you signed a contract with the Demon King, Black Tower Master, you were able to see the end?”
Balzac nodded and said, “I have a feeling that I’m getting closer to the end, little by little. I also hope that, through this conversation, Sir Eugene has come to understand me even a little more.”
“Is there a reason why you need me to understand you?” Eugene asked with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s a little — no, very distressing to be treated like a villain even though I haven’t done anything,” Balzac claimed sorrowfully.
Was he joking? Eugene couldn’t tell what Balzac’s true intentions were, so he just kept up a stiff expression.
Balzac shrugged with a sheepish smile.
“…Aren’t I at least better than Amelia Merwin, though?” Balzac eventually asked.
“…Ahah,” Eugene said as he finally nodded his head with a grin. “I was wondering why you had come looking for me. So you’ve heard something about me from Amelia Merwin, haven’t you?”
“It looks like you made valuable use of the letter that I gave you,” Balzac observed. “Though I didn’t expect that it would really be used so quickly.”
“Honestly, I didn’t really want to use it,” Eugene readily admitted.
“I’ve heard that it was an accidental encounter. It came as quite the surprise to me as well. To think that she would really go and create another dungeon, and that she would actually run into Sir Eugene there…” Balzac marveled at the coincidence.
“Are you aware of the full story?” Eugene checked.
“I haven’t been able to hear it. Although I was curious, Amelia Merwin refused to tell me about it,” Balzac complained.
“Ahah,” Eugene said once more. “So the reason why you came looking for me today was that you wanted to ask about the full story?”
“Would you be willing to tell me?” Balzac asked hopefully.
“Nope,” Eugene answered without any hesitation. “If it really makes you that curious, instead of asking me, can’t the Black Tower Master just ask the Demon King of Incarceration, whom you serve so happily?”
“I might be able to do that, but the Demon King of Incarceration probably won’t answer me. Because I’m not the only one who is receiving the Demon King of Incarceration’s favor,” Balazc said reluctantly, pursing his lips as if he was disappointed by this. “I wanted to hear the whole story from Sir Eugene, but since you have no intention of telling me, I won’t be stubborn and insist on asking about it.”
“If that’s the case, will you be heading back now?” Eugene asked hopefully.
“There’s still a matter that needs to be addressed.”
“What kind of matter?”
“The Rakshasa Princess,” Balzac’s voice lowered as he said this name. “Also known as Iris. Have you heard of her?”
“…I’ve been told that she is the head of Helmuth’s dark elves,” Eugene replied.
“News that Sir Eugene brought more than hundred elves out of Samar with him is sure to have reached the Rakshasa Princess as well. So, before too long, the Rakshasa Princess may make her way to the Lionheart clan for some negotiations,” Balzac reported.
Eugene’s brows furrowed as he repeated Balzac’s words. “…Negotiations?”
“Yes,” Balzac confirmed. “It’s because she’s obsessed with increasing her fighting power. While you were in Samar, did you happen to see any dark elves?”
“…There were rumors about them and I’ve heard a few stories from the elves,” Eugene replied evasively.
“If that’s the case, then this should be easy for you to understand. The Rakshasa Princess’s influence in Helmuth isn’t all that great. The pure-blooded demonfolk consider the Rakshasa Princess and her dark elves to be hybrids, and the Rakshasa Princess is currently competing with the other high-ranking demonfolk to become the next Demon King,” Balzac exposited.
“Do you think she has a shot at it?” Eugene asked.
“Of course not,” Balzac replied without any hesitation. “The dark elves are a special subspecies. It is impossible for even the Demon King of Incarceration to corrupt a race and create a new one from it. The only ones with that special power were the Demon King of Fury, who died three hundred years ago, and his adopted daughter, the Rakshasa Princess, who now commands the dark elves.”
The Demon King of Fury had been slain. This left Iris as the only one in this world who could turn an elf into a dark elf.
“As I said during the hearing, the Demon King of Incarceration provides a lot of charity to those elves who immigrate to Helmuth after being afflicted with the Demonic Disease. They receive a complete exemption from the lifeforce tax and, even without selling their souls, they receive a generous pension every month. For the sake of the dark elves, he has ordered that a forest that is already far too large for their reduced numbers be set aside as the territory of the Rakshasa Princess,” Balzac said with a slight smile and shake of his head. “Of course, most of the pension that each elf receives is taken away to be used as the Rakshasa Princess’s military funds, but… the problem is that the Rakshasa Princess’s goal is far too large, and with her independent army so weak, it is impossible for her to achieve it. As far as I am aware, the number of dark elves led by the Rakshasa Princess numbers less than a thousand.”
It couldn’t be helped that this number was much smaller than it had been three hundred years ago. At that time, more than half of the dark elves led by Iris had been killed by Sienna during their subjugation of the Demon King of Fury. On top of that, most elves preferred dying from the Demonic Disease rather than becoming a dark elf.
“In other words, Sir Eugene is harboring a ten percent increase to the Rakshasa Princess’s manpower in the Lionheart clan’s main estate. Blinded as she is by her desire to increase her war potential, it is inevitable that the Rakshasa Princess will turn her eyes to you,” warned Balzac.
“If she comes looking for me, I’ll just tell her to fuck off,” Eugene replied with a cold smile. “Or perhaps… are you asking me to try and negotiate with the Rakshasa Princess?”
Balzac hurriedly denied this. “What right do I have to persuade Sir Eugene of that? Not to mention, I am not even one of her allies anyway.”
“Then just what is it that you want to say to me?” Eugene demanded exasperatedly.
Balzac began to explain, “I’ve told you something like this before. While the Demon King of Incarceration controls Helmuth, he does not control the entirety of the demonfolk. The Queen of the Night Demons, Noir Giabella, and the Black Dragon, Duke Raizakia, have not signed contracts with the Demon King of Incarceration, and apart from them, countless other demonfolk are also outside the Demon King of Incarceration’s control.”
Eugene silently glared at Balzac. He still had no idea what in the world Balzac was trying to warn him about.
“Of course, such demonfolk are still subject to sanctions when they break the laws set by the Demon King of Incarceration, so they’re forced to take responsibility in exchange for the freedoms they’ve enjoyed. Just like how Baron Olpher was decapitated for trying to seduce Sir Eward.” Balac brought up an example known to Eugene.
In the end, the Demon King was just the most powerful one amongst the demonfolk. Just like how the king of an ordinary kingdom couldn’t know every single move that his people make, the Demon King was similarly helpless. A Demon King would only be able to seize control of a demonfolk’s soul if they had made a contract with him.
However, all that said, the strength of the Demon King was absolute in Helmuth. If the Demon King of Incarceration were to order someone’s death, any demonfolk weaker than him would have to offer up their heads, even if they hadn’t signed a contract with the Demon King.
“….Even in Helmuth, there are some demonfolk that the Demon King of Incarceration cannot fully control,” Balzac pointed out.
“…Are you talking about those who follow the Demon King of Destruction?” Eugene asked, picking up the hint.
“Yes, especially the beastfolk among them,” Balzac responded, confirming Eugene’s suspicions.
Eugene tried to keep any emotions that he was feeling from being expressed on his face. Balzac had to be talking about Oberon’s son — the sworn brother of Barang, the beastman Eugene had fought with in Samar.
“The Rakshasa Princess has only recently realized the reality of her situation. With less than a thousand dark elves, it is impossible for her to become a Demon King if she stubbornly insists on solely relying on her own people’s support,” Balzac revealed.
“…So you’re saying that she’s joined hands with the beastfolk?” Eugene guessed. “But as far as I know, the current chief of the beastfolk, Jagon, killed his own father to take the position. And that father of his happens to have been the Rakshasa Princess’s brother.”
Balzac shook his head and said, “No, the Rakshasa Princess hasn’t joined hands with Jagon. Instead, she’s recruited some of the beastfolk who follow Jagon to be her mercenaries.”
‘Mercenaries?’ Eugene tilted his head and silently muttered this word to himself.
“Jagon is a tyrannical beast who reigns solely through his own strength. He despises those who are weak and doesn’t even place them in his eyes. In order to catch Jagon’s eyes, the ambitious beastfolk have no choice but to develop enough strength.” Balzac continued his lecture.
Eugene silently took in this information.
“Because of this, there are many beastfolk pursuing active careers as mercenaries in Helmuth. By fighting in the territorial battles between the small and medium-sized aristocrats, they are able to gain combat experience and raise their own strength by preying on other demonfolk. And they do all this because they won’t be able to win Jagon’s favor if they’re not strong enough.” Balzac finished presenting his observations of the beastfolk.
Barang had said that the reason why he was searching for the elven territory had nothing to do with Jagon.
‘Could that guy have been serving as a mercenary for some demonfolk, and have gone there after receiving an order from them?’ Eugene speculated.
Eugene couldn’t openly ask any questions about Barang. For now, he had no choice but to wait and see what kind of information Lovellian might be able to pick up.
‘Master Lovellian should be listening in on this conversation as well,’ Eugene thought with some reassurance.
Lovellian should also have pricked up his ears at this talk about mercenaries, and he could use that as a starting point to gather information about Barang.
Without any trace of hesitation, Eugene nodded in understanding and said, “That guy named Jagon, he seems to have quite the crazy personality.”
Balzac pointed out, “He’s someone who tore out his own father’s throat, after all. Even the Rakshasa Princess wouldn’t be so quick to join hands with such a renegade. And as Sir Eugene has already said, the father who Jagon ended with his own hands was also the Rakshasa Princess’s brother.”
The beastfolk tribes, when led by Oberon, had served the Demon King of Fury alongside the Rakshasa Princess. Although the beastfolk were now sworn to the service of the Demon King of Destruction, the Rakshasa Princess would definitely be reluctant to join hands with Jagon, who had killed her former comrade and brother, Oberon.
“If Sir Eugene refuses to negotiate, then the Rakshasa Princess is sure to back down. Because she’s not so desperate that she would attack the Lionheart clan’s main estate in order to take those elves for herself. However, there is a possibility that she might send beastfolk to attack.” Balzac stood up as he gave one final warning, “Jagon shouldn’t have any reason to show up in person, but you shouldn’t take any member of the beastfolk lightly.”
“What are your reasons for providing us with such a warning?” Eugene asked suspiciously.
Balzac hesitantly admitted, “One reason is that I want you to owe me a favor… Sir Eugene… but please don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t want to use this favor for any, well, sexual purposes.”
No matter how much he pretended that it hadn’t affected him, it seemed that what happened last time, when Eugene had asked him if he was gay, had left a thorn embedded deep within Balzac’s heart.
“The other reason I give this warning is for my own personal reputation. I’m already so hated just for being a black wizard, but should the beastfolk from Helmuth really attack the Lionheart clan without any warning…. Should a tragedy occur as a result of that, I’m afraid of any blame that might come my way for not having said anything,” Balzac confessed.
“Don’t you think that you’re attracting so much hatred because you’re needlessly staying in Aroth? If you were to leave for Helmuth, then I’m sure there would be far less hostility,” Eugene kindly advised.
“Haha… while that might be the case, I’m not very fond of Helmuth,” Balzac claimed with a smile as he lowered his fedora back onto his head.
* * *
Kristina rubbed her stiff cheeks.
The appearance reflected in the mirror was somehow unfamiliar to Kristina, especially her expressions. Kristina furrowed her brows, straightened them, and then blinked intently. The flesh beneath her fingertips felt soft, but she could feel her facial muscles stiffening at the slightest pressure.
Originally, this had been the natural state of affairs. Back then, it hadn’t felt strange at all. This sort of expression was just how Kristina used to look. Kristina chewed on her lips a few times, then smiled self-consciously.
‘…It’s only been a few months,’ she thought to herself.
Kristina tried changing her smile a few more times. However, no matter what she did, it didn’t feel right to her.
…Had she smiled like this when she was in Samar? There had to have been more than a few times when she smiled like this. For Kristina, smiling all the time was just a habit. Even if she didn’t have a reason to smile. That was just what she was taught to do ever since she was a child, back in the monastery. Rather than an expressionless or upset face, a smiling face would make her seem more friendly.
‘It’s only been a few months, but I can’t recall what my usual expression was like,’ Kristina silently sighed.
Kristina raised the corners of her lips with both index fingers. But was a forced smile like this really any better than a facade? As her fingers fell, the raised corners of her lips also drooped once more.
Kristina sighed. “…Family, huh….”
Parts of the conversation that she had had with Eugene before leaving the Lionheart estate refused to leave her head.
—My own birth father is just saying these words to me because he’s worried about me, his only son.
—Since I know that it’s all for my sake, as his son, I should at least pretend to listen to my father.
These weren’t particularly important snippets of conversation, but even so, they had been lingering inside her head for the past few days. Kristina also knew that there was nothing inherently special about such words. However, what really mattered was that such words were only commonly found among real ‘families’.
That was why Kristina wasn’t really able to understand the sentiment behind such words.
Ever since she was born, Kristina had never once been part of a true family.
‘…But that’s why it matters to me even more,’ Kristina admitted to herself.
She heard a knocking on the door.
Kristina pasted the still awkward-feeling façade back onto her face.
In her own mind, Kristina absently addressed Eugene. ‘I know that you didn’t have a good reason to do so….’
Her façade might feel awkward right now, but she would soon get used to it.
‘…but I would have been fine with you killing me…’
Because while meeting her father, Cardinal Rogeris, Kristina would need to be able to keep up such a smile without focusing on it.
‘…that way, I would have been able to leave this place and never come back.’
Kristina had hoped to never return to this place.